Introspection & Loss

I recently celebrated my fourth anniversary of blogging here at The Renegade Press. As with the three anniversaries prior to this one, the moment was a bitter-sweet affair of pride and introspection. Blogging has become a passion, and a source of endless pleasure that I approach with great reverence as I attempt to pour my heart and soul into everything that I create. But it hasn’t always been this way. This website was born out of a need to find myself, and to overcome my own internal torment. Four years ago I was emotionally shattered, creatively stunted, and questioning the validity of my own existence as I battled my own private demons. I was lost inside my head, desperately searching for a purpose amongst an endless torrent of fractured, self-depreciating thoughts.

Thankfully I found that purpose; and I found myself through my writing. With each new post that I create I learn more about myself and the world than I ever thought possible. Writing is continuously helping me to become a man of tolerance, compassion, loyalty and fierce determination. But perhaps the greatest lesson that I have learned in the past four years is that the conversations that seem the hardest to have are oftentimes the ones that are most important.

In November 2015 I lost a friend to suicide. This month I lost another. For a man as petrified of death as I am, it can be incredibly confronting to lose a friend or family member. To have to accept the fragility of their morality, as well as my own scares me. To lose them to mental illness, the very affliction that pushed me into blogging in the first place, opens a chasm of sadness inside of my soul that will forever haunt me.

Recent studies compiled by the World Health Organisation suggest that global suicide rates have risen by sixty percent over the past forty-five years. This violent spike means that suicide is now one of the three leading causes of death for males and females aged 15-44. This statistic alone is staggering. When you then take a moment to consider that ninety percent of suicides worldwide can be attributed, or associated to mental health, a picture of sadness and vulnerability begins to take shape. There is a flaw in the manner in which we approach mental health and suicide. We are losing so many friends and family members prematurely.

That flaw is startlingly simple: we as a society are not communicating effectively enough about mental health and illness. Sure, people are more open to talking about suicide and depression than ever before. There is an abundance of mental health initiatives across the globe providing people with the support to overcome their own turmoil. But as a society we’re still not communicating. If we were, those organisations that are desperately trying to help strangers find beauty and meaning in their lives, or fighting valiantly to empower the vulnerable to face one more day, wouldn’t be struggling to prevent global suicide rates from reaching epidemic proportions.

OK. I want to stop for a moment and double back over that last comment and try and break it down a little. There was a linguistic sleight of hand in the preceding paragraph that may, or may not have found its mark. But it has to. I need you to understand where this flaw in our approach to mental health and suicide stems from. People are talking; or at least they are more willing to do so. And yet no one is communicating. What we are hearing when we talk to one another is the fake sound of progress. God, I hope that makes sense.


Talking and communication are two very different things. Talking is typically defined as the oral projection of one’s voice. Whereas communication is imparting, exchanging, and receiving information through a variety of means. Communication is listening, watching, comforting, and talking when needed. Organisations can talk to sufferers of mental illness and try to create and stimulate change. But we as individuals can communicate with them. We can hold their hand when they need a friend, or lend an ear when they want to talk.  We can tear apart the idea that mental illness is something to be ashamed of and instead create a culture of support and understanding that praises someone for having the courage to seek help.

As someone who has suffered from depression and anxiety, I know how difficult it can be to admit that you are struggling. I know the crushing feeling of despair that settles into the back of your mind and pushes down on your chest until you feel as though you are drowning underneath a sea of hopelessness. But thanks to blogging, I also know the feeling of release that comes with being able to open your heart and mind and communicate with your peers. There is no shame in admitting that you are vulnerable, depressed, or alone.

Mental illness is claiming far too many lives, and for me personally, it has taken too many wonderful people away from me far too soon. While I adore and admire the hardworking organisations that fight valiantly to save lives, I believe that we as individuals can have a far greater impact. We can start having conversations that might seem uncomfortable, or difficult to broach at first. We can stop turning a blind eye when we see a friend, or stranger struggling.  We can give those in need an ear to talk to, or a hand to hold, instead of a cold shoulder and a diverted glance. And maybe in doing so we can stop people from feeling so fucking alone, or depressed, or broken that suicide becomes their only answer.

In my lowest moments it was the kindness of strangers who stopped by a shitty little blog originally called Chris Nicholas Writes that became the catalyst I needed to confront my sadness and find myself once again. To know that my friends were not so fortunate as to find the inner peace that I did brings me to tears. If my only accomplishment as a writer is to inspire someone, somewhere to communicate; to speak and to listen about mental health, anxiety and depression, I’ll die a happy man.

Author: Chris Nicholas

Chris Nicholas is an author from Brisbane, Australia. He has published two novels, and is currently working on his third.

168 thoughts on “Introspection & Loss”

  1. Thank you for this beautiful read. As a person suffering from panic attacks and depression, I have contemplated suicide a couple of times but good thing, I’m kind of afraid to hurt myself with something sharp… ironic, right? But, I have been saved a couple of times by prayer, family and friends- even strangers with not just kind words but “wake up” calls. Whenever I feel like everything is spiralling downwards to that dark place, I try to write or try my hardest to deal with it. It is important that people know that depression can’t just be cured or helped by medicine- people matter. interactions… genuine care and love.. we all need people fighting alongside us whenever our personal demons attack. People should not fear depression or make them feel uncomfortable or exasperated… the way they react to the person who is depressed or suicidal is pretty crucial…

  2. I like your post, and I feel I have something to add. Society tends to define those who do not fit into its standard set of ‘labels’ as being mentally ill. Some people – some of us – have contemplated suicide because we don’t want to live in a world model we find unacceptable. Now it is easy to ascribe that one sentence to Depression (capital ‘D’) but you could also say that the manipulators and the users whom we have allowed to run amok are morally depraved, and in their attempts to bend us tot their will they are responsible for a decline that not everyone can handle. Is that an illness?

    A lad I knew well killed himself last year. He drove his car as fast as he could into a tree, after his girlfriend of four years and the love of his life dumped him with a text message. I have to ask – who was ill, then?

  3. Thank you Chris .. You HAVE Inspired me this evening. In the Right Place at the Right time! …
    … and to think, I almost gave in to the voice that told me, “No one wants to read about your depressing troubles” and not publish my vulnerable struggle. (Thank you for liking my post) 🙂 and congratulations! !

  4. Thank you for liking my blog and therefore leading me to yours. I feel your words strongly not as a sufferer of mental illness but one who through serious illness could have become isolated which could therefore have led to depression – very common with the illness I suffered from. Instead blogging among other things gave me an outlet to share what was inside my head. Not only did that help people to understand me better and understand that the Karen they saw in front of them was the Karen they knew but now there was a whole lot of darkness also going on. It also however helped me to process this darkness until it became something I understood and therefore became a light that transformed my approach to the world and the life I lead. Keep writing, I look forward to reading more. Karen

  5. What you wrote was a therapy to yourself. I am a volunteer counselor since I am retired. I don’t have enough energy to make full time commitment. Asking the clients to write is one of the things we do a lot. Personally, I understand very well of what you’re going through. My husband lost his best friend this year. His friend was at my husband’s birthday party. The next week, he was found dead of biking accident! He is my friend too because he is a neighbor. I am happy that you are finding yourself. When I was in school studying counseling, I was actually studying about myself for two years. You are doing the right thing, going the right direction! Keep on! Please follow my blog. I pray everyday to be a blessing to someone, today.

  6. First of all Congrats on your 4th year at your job. You have a great way with the putting words together and making them come out to this huge and inspiring blog that makes sense. Now I want to thank you for the subject matter of your blog. I too have lost family and friends to suicide but the one loss I feel the most is that of my sister who lost her fight with depression in 2007 and ended the battle because she couldn’t fight anymore. So thank you for sharing your thoughts and loss with all of us who struggle with pain of wondering why without having answers. You didn’t really give answers but you help me see that sometimes depression is hard to live with.
    Thank you

  7. A very caring message. The community where I used to live in South Wales, UK, and where my daughters and their families still live, have much poverty, depression and suicide events, most distressingly amongst teenagers. In an attempt to rectify this they have developed closer networks of professional agents who can identify needs, and provide support for families, from the moment a child is born They hope to prevent abuse, poverty, mental health issues, relationship difficulties, school problems ect. It may seem paternalistic, but I believe that this is what some individuals and families are looking for. And I wish them success.

  8. This is beautiful, and really hits home for me. Due to very traumatic experiences in my life, I have found blogging to be a great relief and a blessing to me. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Beautiful words…
    I have just started blogging and honestly, I am not exactly good at it. But, just putting my words, my thoughts out there makes me feel better!
    You are right…communication is so important.

  10. Happy Anniversary 🙂 thank you for the introspection – very well written. I agree with everything but I also think that the first step is dissecting ourselves and our own mental health before we can reach out to others. All the feelings I would also have to go through while being there for others would be overloading my emotional capacity… it’s quite sad. Did you have a mechanisms to help others while fragile?

  11. Thank you for liking my post ‘England 2013’. Indeed, you are correct about the difference between Talk and Communication. It is obvious, but taken for granted. Some of my verses touch on poisonous ‘talk’ (one-way) from members of one’s blood family (In the ‘Blood’ sections of my works).

  12. I know that suicidal feeling/place well, even this many years down the road. It was less wanting to die than feeling unable to continue. I considered ways and means for quite some time, but never found a perfect way to end myself any more than any other kind of perfection. Fortunately, I had a friend who “really knows how it really is” from experience and shared her way of continuing. That was in 1988, and I continue much more happily today than I did then, but I dare not fail to pass it on if and when I can.

  13. I appreciate you talking about suicide. I lost my 39 year old brother last December to suicide. He was more ill than I realized and my Mom is in the same way (they both suffer from severe depression, anxiety, etc). I try to talk to my Mom but she won’t allow it. She did say she doesn’t want to live anymore so I try to let her know that I need her and I try to give her hope but I don’t really know how to help her. I think the person has to want to accept the help and it’s very hard for those that love them to feel helpless. I also suggested that if she can’t talk to me then she should talk to someone, even a professional. I think everyday on what I can do for my Mom…… I can only keep trying to reach her.

  14. A lot of this spoke to me. I’ve battled with depression, told myself that it was nothing that I couldn’t handle myself and fallen dangerously close to an abyss that shocked me into getting help. Like you Chris, writing helps me release a lot of what I’m feeling. I escape into a world that I create and lose myself in it. And this helps me stop thinking and when I come out of that world, I feel better. I hope through my writing that I can take people out of their own head and follow a journey with people who may or may not represent something to them. Anything that can help someone who think’s that things are too tough, or they aren’t worthy can only be a good thing. Let’s start communicating with one another!

  15. wow, so very moving and so very true… I have a daughter who suffers from mental health issues and through her I have leaned so much… I see her struggles and other’s reactions to them, very little understanding from most people, if they can’t physically see a disability they don’t believe it exists. I agree completely with you that through communication, one to the other, we can make a difference. Suicide is such a sad thing, so many lives ended just to end the suffering that we could have helped with, many times no one even knows about the sufferer… I think it is all just another symptom of our society’s failing and our, collectively, inability or lost ability to connected with one another, to feel another’s pain, to put aside judgments and really see and hear each other… but I have hope, in spite of the statistics, I believe we are all parts of a beautiful whole and together we can change the world, not through politics and policies, not through following the leader or buying into all the crap on the news and online but through individuals, one on one, whether it is here on this blog, which is a wonderful place, or neighbor to neighbor, family to family, the grassroots belonging of us all can and will make a difference…. we must have faith in each other no matter what the polls say. much love and peace to you and everyone, Namaste, Michelle

  16. You are so right, we as a society are losing a battle that’s why I made my blog. We are not talking, we are all sinking in our own bubbles. Community sense is further away than ever and mental ilness is growing at a faster than ever rate. What is causing it and what can we do about it. So many questions, so many answers but little of it really goes to the core of the issue. Not many people are good at really solving problems, at really looking into the demons eyes and saying: hey man, fuck off. Depression and anxiety can seem like a never ending battle. You search for some self-improvement and do it for a while. Hope comes back for four days and then bam you are back to self-destruction. It’s like the devil has you in his hands and he just laughs at your attempts.. But I also made my blog because I struggle and I honestly believe if we struggle together that we will make it. Peace and all the best.

  17. I have a very good friend who calls me on the phone, interrupts me if I try to say anything, insists I am the smartest friend, and then hangs up. Talking yes, communication no. I’ve decided this is a spirit of Unteachableness. And this must be the worst place anyone can be.

  18. Sorry for your loss :(. I recently worked on developing a strategy for destigmatising mental health problems and seeking help for them within academia. We didn’t find any easy solution to a problem which I really would describe as endemic amongst PhD students. It’s this secret little undertone to every conversation which no one ever dares speak out loud. Myself included – hence why I also started blogging. Often I hide behind a sigh and eye rolling and generally trivialising things, never wanting to admit how bad it really is. I know I’m not the only one and still no one breaks past that fourth wall. I don’t know why I or everyone around me does it but I guess it’s fear of judgement, of looking weak, of not being trusted with big responsibilities in the future? Like you say, society is making progress, but not real progress. I think the points you make about the value of real communication and also just looking out for people around you are key but it really feels like there’s some big catalyst missing to get everyone to open up more.

  19. You speak to very basic personal issues. When I was a kid I was horrified to discover that eventually I would die and I wondered how people could bear that everybody was under a sentence of death. Eventually I accepted the idea and in my later years I learned to live my life day by day with the appreciation of the present moment becoming sufficient. I am now older than mst people and, looking back on my life amd not perticularly encouraged by what I have done with my time. I have outlived almost all my friends and relativesand miss them but individual lives are of a limited length and that is merely a fact of nature. When I am gone, I will not be aware of it and shall have no regrets. I have been depressed at times and have thought about why and have come to the conclusion that these mental lows are mostly out of comparing myself to other people and their accomplishments and I avoid this depressing attitude by accepting myself as I am. I am sufficiently bright to handle my problems and remain in good health and no matter how bad the world seems to be and how idiotic the powers that control our society may be, there is a residual wonder in merely being alive to to make it worthwhile. A look at most of the rest of the universe seems to indicate that life is a rare phenomenon and it is a privilege that I can enjoy with eagles and oysters and mushrooms and houseflies and, at least for the moment, that is enough. Humans keep requesting that their lives have meaning but my fellow housefies never seem to think twice about that.

  20. I just recently started blogging and I’m so touched by this piece. I feel like my blog would help me understand my abilities as well. Your message here is so important. Love this.

  21. I think everyone has experienced depression in their life in any way. The important thing is that it ends with a great feeling of relief!
    You know…a sense full of spirituality…
    Somthing rewarding!
    Then, there is always “hope”.
    I’ s so difficult to beilieve when you sink into it, but it’ s quite near!

  22. I’m…speechless. To share something like this, to reach out to others in an effort to help and show that we are all human and fallible…this is beautiful – heartbreaking – but beautiful. You’ve inspired me for a long time, from the first instance I visited your site on and…I think it’s time I showed my support. I’m nominating you for the Sunshine Blogger Award – because you definitely deserve it!

  23. I have someone close to me who has struggled deeply with depression. Thank you for teaching me and helping me understand more the difference between listening/talking and communicating and being understood. There truly is a big difference. I hope we can all work on helping others as a support who struggle with mental illness. I am new at this blogging. If you have time could you look at my site and give suggestions. Sincerely- jon

  24. I have been depressed and unsuccessfully attempted suicide. I am glad that there were those few who took the time to lift me up and help me. I also am using blogging as therapy. It does help, surprisingly so. But you have encouraged me to look outward for moments when I can show care for others. I thank you for that.

  25. Reblogged this on retrainthebrainweb and commented:
    Congratulations on taking the first step 4 years ago. I too wrote my own simple blog-one paragraph of writing about mental illness one month ago [ no pictures or fancy writing] just a paragraph to ask readers to start a conversation about mental illness It has been seen to be something to be ashamed of for too long. Lets all get started to chat and share our experiences and support one another. United we stand Divided we fall. All we need is Love!

    I am happy to chat and share my learned ways to overcome my dark times of my life but more importantly I want to listen to yours.Don’t be afraid A problem shared is a problem halved. Mistakes are just an opportunity waiting to open.
    Take care to all lost souls and make a support group



  26. Thanks for liking my post, Chris. You writing is insightful and offers hope. Your topics are poignant and realistic, . PTR

  27. It is important to understand that the world is like a mirror and a mirror can reflect the entire iniverse or merely the face that peers into it. If anyone sees only his or her own face in the world then the entire universe becomes invisible. Of course, no one can look at the world and neglect him or herself as being within it but there is much more there to see and respect and wonder at and enjoy and love than one’s own face.

  28. I just this week started seeing a therapist for my depression. I was in denial of being depressed for years and it took some hard work on behalf of my family to even get me to admit that I was depressed. Seeing other people struggle and overcome always helps me deal with my own issues. Thank you for sharing.

  29. Chris wonderful post, very insightful. We as a society need to wake up and see what is happening all around us and drop the facade of ignoring the pain in others as well as ourselves. I have suffered but managed to hang on and build my life up and yet now my own daughter suffers many of the same issues as I did (and still do at times) growing up. I so desperately want to help her and yet I realize that only by listening and communicating can there ever be any real resolve. Thank you so much for posting this. – Phil from Ottawa, Canada.

  30. Thanks for sharing this profound and thoughtful post, Chris. I believe you are right that a significant human shift has to happen, one that values deep listening and unconditional kindness, one that creates safety and the freedom to express honestly what’s going on inside each of us. I worry that the rise in mental health challenges and suicides is linked to a world that is increasingly disconnected, inhumane, externally oriented with distorted values, where we measure worth based on money and power, and where aggression is considered strength, compassion a sign of weakness. How hard is it for a child to grow up in a world that is so psychically cruel? I wonder if mental health efforts are just trying to help us adapt to a sick civilization, a sad commentary, but perhaps it’s the best we can do until our societal values shift. So the key, maybe, is building our own communities where we can be heard and supported without judgment, where we are accepted wherever we are in our journeys, where the quality of our thoughts and feelings are appreciated, where age, religion, race, attractiveness, lifestyle, wealth make no difference. On some level, blogging provides that. I too am grateful every day for this amazing community, for the connections all over the world, for the kindness of “strangers.” It’s remarkable; it’s healing, And if gives me hope for the world. 🙂 Sorry for being so long-winded. Your post clearly got me thinking. Thanks ❤

    1. I agree entirely with your general outlook but human history indicates no era where these basic considerations for social decency and imterpersonal respect held sway. Humans have always operated under regimes of tight hierarchy where brutality and economic domination were prominent social factors. Admittedly the ideals of interpersonal concern have been declared and promoted n some forms of religious and social philosophy but the arrangement of one society or another in general has always boiled down to social dominance of callous disregard for the mass of humans to the benefit of a corrosive and insensitive few. Whether this is an inherent genetic demand or merely a horrendous fate of all societies I do not know but our current society sreems little different from previous organizations. Individuals can evade the worst of these events if they are lucky, intelligent and resourceful but the general patterns seem always to take hold and in our current world human control of potential disasters seem hell bent on massive planetary destruction. It is a terrible tragedy since there are valid potentials for a better world.

      1. I agree that humankind has always been less than noble as a whole but hate to think we are so blind to reason that the only end is mass murder and planetary destruction. As an activist, I’ve seen how ordinary citizens can defeat the beasts of greed and fear when we each do our small part. It’s surprisingly possible. And kindness is easy. I have to cling to that belief because the alternative is despair. Thanks so much for the reply. An interesting conversation. 🙂

      2. I study history in its long sweep as a kind of hobby and philosophy. I believe that history basically describes a long series of situations where the few gained material power over the many and struggled mightily to keep it but eventually failed. The tendency I see over the millennia is that the few (kingdoms, empires, gangs) acquire relatively less wealth (think Rome versus the British Empire) and hold it under more constraints. We may never reach a humane ideal, but we improve over time.

      3. I am with you in hope but the geniouses of human technology have currently armed the most peuliarly mentally deficient people in charge of politics, the military and the economy to move at maximum speed to trigger forces that are far beyond the efforts of the wiser sector of humanity to subvert. Humanity has run out of time and the natural forces of the violated climate are rapidly releasing all sorts of changes in the climate, in the beneficent flow of ocean currents, in the acidification of the oceans to massively destroy sea life, in the destruction of the great forests to undermine the supply for the atmosphere of breathable oxygen, to raise sea level sufficiently to submerge most of the habitable coastal lands, and if this was not enough, the military seems to be delighted with the prospects for nuclear war which will poison he atmosphere with radioactive fallout to finish off whatever life survives the other menaces. Whom the gods would destroy they first drive mad.We have run out of time.

  31. Thank you so much for your very moving post on an important topic. Sorry for your recent losses. And I agree that we all nees to be communicating more on this. Take care.

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